Splendid moss

Many interesting finds were made during the recent John Child Bryophyte Workshop, including the moss Hylocomium splendens (the “Stair-step Moss”).


Splendid indeed! The moss Hylocomium splendens. The “splendens” part of the scientific name actually translates to “shining, glistening, or brilliant”. Photo by Matt Renner. (c) Matt Renner.

Landcare Research’s Allan Fife, a moss expert who identified this species, writes:

“This species is found through much of the temperate northern hemisphere, but it is known from the temperate southern hemisphere only from a few high-elevation localities in the North Island. It is a remarkable example of a bipolar disjunct moss species.”

“In the Department of Conservation’s Threat Classification List, H. splendens is considered to be “sparse” in occurrence, with a qualifying term “data poor.” Several workshop participants found it near Sunrise Hut in the Ruahine Ranges. Although previously recorded from high-elevation sites at Mt. Hikurangi, Mt Hector & Field Pk in Tararuas, and from the Ruahines, none of the workshop participants had seen before this characteristic but poorly-documented species.”

“The workshop collections are significant because they were made from a range of elevations and habitats, clarifying the morphological variation, distribution, altitudinal range and habitat preferences of Hylocomium in New Zealand”.

2009 John Child Bryophyte Workshop

Allan Fife, Landcare Research bryologist

6 Responses

  1. Leon Perrie

    The Sunrise Track in the Ruahine Ranges is a relatively easy way to get into Hylocomium habitat: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/east-coast-hawkes-bay/hawkes-bay-area/sunrise-track/

  2. Bryo

    Yes, it is true about paraphyllia and this species record is very interesting indeed. I would be happy to see it in nature someday in Newzealand.

  3. Leon Perrie

    Hi Bryo,
    Hylocomium has paraphyllia (reduced leaf-like structures) on its stems; Pleurozium doesn’t. I’m told by someone who has examined the New Zealand specimens closely that they have paraphyllia, indicating that they are indeed Hylocomium.
    I presume the colour of the stem is more likely to be misleading than the presence/absence of the paraphyllia.
    It is interesting, though, that the NZ plants look superficially more like Wikipedia’s Pleurozium than Hylocomium.

  4. Bryo

    Pleurozium schreberi has characteristic red stem appear as distinguish field character (exactly as in picture above), but Hylocomium splendens are making stairs or layers – each year one – also visible on a field, the plant plate is wider and fleecy. I am not sure, but probably in Australia is other kind of variaty or subspecies instead of species in northern hemisphere.

  5. Leon

    Pleurozium and Hylocomium are both in the same family of mosses, Hylocomiaceae. I’m not an expert on mosses, but I believe that Pleurozium schreberi and Hylocomium splendens are similar-looking; I’m not sure how they are distinguished morphologically. Pleurozium has not been recorded from New Zealand.

  6. Bryo

    The moss looks alike Pleurozium schreberi due to the red-brown stem color and morphological set of leaves and subbranches. Am I right?


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